Arrow Rock, Blackwater destinations during annual Fall Ramble

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A group of 55 preservationists toured historic buildings in Arrow Rock and Blackwater and the surrounding area last weekend.

Missouri Preservation, also known as the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, tours historic communities in the state each year during its Fall Ramble weekend.

Bobby Danner, mayor of Blackwater, said the group was impressed with the architecture of downtown Blackwater, and especially how most of the buildings were designed in the 1880s to 1900s time period, rather than some in the 1880s and others in the mid-1900s. "Pretty much all of Blackwater's downtown has been restored to its original appearance," he said.

Danner gave a half-hour talk on Blackwater's history and then set Missouri Preservation group members loose to explore the town's gardens, buildings and other attractions. He said several tourists commented on how much the town has changed in the last decade.

Danner mentioned many recent changes, such as renovating store facades, moving a jail house and one-room school house into town, adding the telephone museum, brick sidewalks, period lights and a new park and garden.

He said the group enjoyed watching a play, "Orphan Train West," at the local amateur theater and ate lunch at the Iron Horse Inn, where some also spent the night.

Danner said he was "thrilled to death" when the historic group contacted him several months ago.

Barb Fitzgerald, executive director for Missouri Preservation, said Danner explained how he approached revitalizing the community through Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) credits and economic development.

"It was just really an outstanding tribute to how preservation can revitalize the area through economic development," she said. "I had visited Blackwater three years ago and even seeing the changes in three years was remarkable."

The group also toured Arrow Rock with Friends of Arrow Rock Executive Director Kathy Borgman. In the Missouri Preservation Fall Ramble brochure, Arrow Rock is called "the birthplace of historic preservation in Missouri," because it was one of the first towns established as a national historic landmark.

"I think it was very inspiring to see how Arrow Rock has been preserved for many, many years," Fitzgerald said. "Several of the people there had visited Arrow Rock as children."

Missouri Preservation members also heard lectures on the Boonslick area during the plantation era from Mike Dickey, site administrator for Arrow Rock State Historic Site. Historian Brett Rogers spoke about the Oak Grove plantation in southeastern Saline County. The group toured the private homes of Oak Grove, Prairie Park three miles west of Arrow Rock, the Price house in Arrow Rock and Lo Mismo near Hardeman. Borgman said Prairie Park owners Day and Whitney Kerr and an architect at Oak Grove spoke with the group members about preserving the properties.

Borgman, along with Friends of Arrow Rock president Sue Stubbs, led the group on the tours. "It is an honor to be chosen as the site of a ramble," she said. "They have lots of communities to choose from so it's nice when they choose to tour in your area."

Borgman said most of the group members she spoke with were preservationists in their own communities of Jefferson City, Fulton and Independence. "I think that these are people that enjoy preservation at every level and at every stage," she said.

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